Trial: Supplementing Damage Interrogatory Answers AFTER close of evidence and before submitting to jury permitted

The following is an important decision by the COA which held in this published decision that the CR 26 answers to damage interrogatories can be supplemented at the close of evidence and before the case is submitted to the jury.

Engle v. Baptish Healthcare System, Published, 2/25/2011

Although Baptist received a defense verdict, it filed a cross-appeal regarding the trial court’s instructing the jury on punitive damages. Engle’s complaint, filed November 24, 2004, requested an unspecified amount of punitive damages. Baptist requested answers to interrogatories, and one of Baptist’s interrogatories asked Engle to categorize and specify the amount of his damages. In his answer to Baptist’s interrogatory, Engle made no reference to punitive damages.

The trial in this matter concluded on October 9, 2009. After the close of evidence at trial, but before the matter was submitted to the jury, Engle moved to supplement his answers to Baptist’s interrogatories because he wished to specify a sum of punitive damages for the jury to consider. Baptist objected, contending that Kentucky Rule(s) of Civil Procedure (CR) 8.01(2) precluded Engle from supplementing his interrogatories at that time. In support, Baptist cited Fratzke v. Murphy, 12 S.W.3d 269 (Ky. 1999), which “recognized that a trial court can authorize answers or supplemental answers to interrogatories for good cause, as late as during the trial itself.”4 [fn 4 In Tennill v. Talai, 277 S.W.3d 248, 251 (Ky. 2009), the Supreme Court of Kentucky interpreted Fratzke in this manner.]   Baptist urged that Engle’s motion was untimely because both sides had already finished presenting their cases. Nevertheless, the trial court granted Engle’s motion to supplement his answers to Baptist’s interrogatories, and the question of punitive damages was submitted to the jury.

In its cross-appeal, Baptist repeats its argument that Engle’s motion was improper solely because it occurred after both sides had presented their respective cases. Baptist urges that, should we remand this matter, Engle should be precluded from seeking punitive damages upon retrial.

However, Baptist presents no authority supporting that a motion to supplement answers to interrogatories is improper within the meaning of Fratzke if it is made after the close of evidence but prior to submitting a matter to the jury. Moreover, Fratzke merely holds that a motion to supplement answers to interrogatories may be granted as late as during trial. We have determined that a new trial is warranted in this matter, the new trial in this matter has yet to occur, and Baptist presents no authority that would prohibit Engle from moving to supplement his answers during the course of retrial. Therefore, we find no error in the trial court’s decision to grant Engle leave to amend his answers to Baptist’s interrogatories.